BEASTLY – Marcelo Zarvos


Original Review by Alan Rogers (First uploaded at maintitles.net)

Director Daniel Barnz’s 2011 film Beastly is a “modern-day take on the Beauty and the Beast tale” and stars Vanessa Hudgens (of High School Musical “fame”) as Lindy (the “Beauty”) and Alex Pettyfer as Kyle (the “Beast”). Kyle’s an arrogant brat of a teenager who is transformed into a “hideous freak” by a witch and then has one year to mend his ways and find true love (Hudgens’ character) or he will remain a beast. The film hasn’t had particularly good reviews as far as I can see and appears to be a particularly mediocre retelling of a well-worn plot (and Kyle’s transformation to a beast looks more like someone trying out some experimental face painting, a bit of cake decoration and a close haircut). When you call your film something like “Beastly” you’re leaving yourself open to ridicule if the film isn’t particularly good. It’s enough to say that I think that the film matches up to its title in a way the film-makers were hoping to avoid.

Bearing all this in mind, I (at last) come to the score. Brazilian Marcelo Zarvos is a composer I first came across when I heard his score to the 2004 mystery/drama The Door In The Floor. For this, Zarvos provided a simple but above-average score that focused more on the emotions rather than trying to impress by writing music that was too fussy. For Beastly, the composer has taken the same approach: Zarvos, concentrating his scoring efforts mainly for piano and strings, focuses on establishing musical tapestries that frame the on-screen action. 

Rather than writing strong themes – perhaps because of the prominent use of songs in the soundtrack – Zarvos focuses more on “structural music”, rhythms rather than hummable themes. The album begins with an upbeat acoustic guitar and rhythmic strings motif that sets out the film as being more of a light-hearted examination of the problems thrown up by the characters’ predicaments (“The Thinking Thing Killed”). Re-appearing in tracks such as “It’s Always Been Me”, “Building The Greenhouse” and “Finale”, the appearance of this particular motif are the score’s highlights. As a companion to this motif, a meandering piano-based line of alternating notes interspersed with slight variations is a motif that also features throughout the score. Heard in cues such as “The Poem”, “Lindy’s In Trouble” and “It’s Always Been Me” it’s suggestive of the romance of the film, particularly when a strong statement of this motif is heard at the resolution of the film (“Finale”). “And they all lived happily ever after?”

Alongside these two prominent motifs/mini-themes there are a couple of other aspects to Zarvos’ score that adds a bit of variety. A habañera-styled tango adds an element of the comedic to the score (“Jujyfruits” and “Food and Gifts”) – in fact, it is this tango that crisply brings the album to an abrupt resolution (“Finale”). And “High School” adds some rock to proceedings but is actually quite distracting considering the style of the rest of the score (be aware also that this rock music closes “The Curse Part 1”).

Marcelo Zarvos’ score to Beastly is a score that seems to be at odds with the subject matter of the film. But the film-makers’ decision to go down the route they did with the film and use Zarvos’ score to highlight the emotional aspects of the characters’ plight has meant that what we have is another solid score from this composer. This, together with his score for The Door In The Floor, highlights Zarvos’ talent for giving us scores that are more scene-setters rather than action scores, but that offer much in the way of listenable music.

Rating: ***

  1. The Thinking Thing Killed (1:06)
  2. Lake House (2:51)
  3. Jujyfruits (1:06)
  4. The Poem (2:54)
  5. High School (0:53)
  6. It’s Always Been Me (5:23)
  7. Elephant Story (1:40)
  8. Building The Greenhouse (0:53)
  9. Drive To The Station (1:48)
  10. The Curse Part 1 (1:53)
  11. Lindy’s Picture (2:21)
  12. The Kiss (3:39)
  13. Hunter Rescues Lindy (4:00)
  14. Food and Gifts (1:57)
  15. Lindy’s In Trouble (4:22)
  16. The Curse Part 2 (2:24)
  17. Hunter and Zola Talk (1:29)
  18. Finale (3:26)

Running Time: 44:12

Lakeshore Records LKS 341452 (2011)

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